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by [?]

The bubbling, boyish good-cheer that Corot possessed is well shown in a letter he once wrote to Stevens Graham. This letter was written, without doubt, in that fine intoxication which comes after work well done; and no greater joy ever comes to a mortal in life than this.

George Moore tells somewhere of catching Corot in one of these moods of rapture: the Master was standing alone on a log in the woods, like a dancing faun, leading an imaginary orchestra with silent but tremendous gusto. At other times, when Corot captured certain effects in a picture, he would rush across the fields to where there was a peasant plowing, and seizing the astonished man, would lead him over and stand him before the canvas crying: “Look at that! Ah, now, look at that! What did I tell you! You thought I never could catch it–Oho, aha, ohe, tralala, la, la, la, loo!”

This willingness to let the unrestrained spirit romp was strong in Corot–and it is to be recommended. How much finer it is to go out into the woods and lift up your voice in song, and be a child, than to fight inclination and waste good God-given energy endeavoring to be proper–whatever that may be!

Corot never wrote anything finer than that letter to his friend Graham, and, like all really good things, it was written with no weather-eye on futurity. The thought that it might be published never came to him, for if it had, he would probably have produced something not worth publishing. It was scribbled off with a pencil, hot from the heart, out of doors, immediately after having done a particularly choice bit of work. Every one who writes of Corot quotes this letter, and there are various translations of it. It can not be translated literally, because the language in which it was written is effervescent, flashing, in motion like a cascade. It defies all grammar, forgets rhetoric, and simply makes you feel. I have just as good a right to translate this letter as anybody, and while I will add nothing that the spirit of the text does not justify, I will omit a few things, and follow my own taste in the matter of paragraphing.

So here is the letter:

A landscapist’s day is divine. You are jealous of the moments, and so are up at three o’clock–long before the sun sets you the example.

You go out into the silence and sit under a tree, and watch and watch and wait and wait.

It is very dark–the nightingales have gone to bed, all the mysterious noises of night’s forenoon have ceased–the crickets are asleep, the tree-toad has found a nest–even the stars have slunk away.

You wait.

There is scarcely anything to be seen at first–only dark, spectral shapes that stand out against the blue-black of the sky.

Nature is behind a veil, upon which some masses of form are vaguely sketched. The damp, sweet smell of the incense of Spring is in the air–you breathe deeply–a sense of religious emotion sweeps over you–you close your eyes an instant in a prayer of thankfulness that you are alive.

You do not keep your eyes closed long, though–something is about to happen–you grow expectant, you wait, you listen, you hold your breath–everything trembles with a delight that is half-pain, under the invigorating caress of the coming day.

You breathe fast, and then you hold your breath and listen.

You wait.

You peer.

You listen.

Bing! A ray of pale yellow light shoots from horizon to zenith. The dawn does not come all at once: it steals upon you by leaps and subtle strides like deploying pickets.

Bing! Another ray, and the first one is suffusing itself across an arc of the purple sky.

Bing, Bing! The east is all aglow.

The little flowers at your feet are waking in joyful mood.

The chirrup of birds is heard. How they do sing! When did they begin? You forgot them in watching the rays of light.